On Books and Reading

           I am writing this in the waiting room of the Eye Institute watching the computer board for my mother’s cataract surgery to be finished.   Hospital technology has advanced to the state that you can now track the patient’s journey from pre-op to OR to recovery room, and then a volunteer will come and kindly escort you to your loved one’s bedside.    I suppose it saves the nurses time not having to answer all those pesky questions.   My mother has a particularly dense cataract which has been interfering with her ability to paint.   (Most of the paintings on the website are hers, she is also under The Artist on the main menu).   Claude Monet had the same problem in his later years, as his vision loss progressed his colors became more muted.  (If you look at this paintings after the surgery the blue green colors are so vibrant).   As a painter her eyes are important to her, as painting is her passion, while mine is reading.   Both our hobbies are dependent on clear vision.    A cataract is easily fixable, but some other eye conditions such as macular degeneration, are not.  I hope someday medicine will have progressed to the point where they will be able to implant stem cells into eyes and restore vision.   What a miracle that would be for those facing vision loss.    You hear a lot of tragic stories in the waiting rooms of eye clinics like these, but these doctors, they are the unsung heroes.

           Not being able to read would be the worst nightmare for me.   I know there are audio books but I want a book in my hand.   I don’t remember ever not being able to read, although I have a vague recollection of taking one of those Dick-Jane-and-Sally-see-Spot-run books to my mother and proudly showing her I could read by myself.   The letters made sense, they were words!  It was a momentous discovery.

           I read vicariously and from an early age.   I started school in a rural one room school house, and as there were only three of us in grade one, I listened in while the very frazzled teacher taught the older grades.   It seems archaic now but I suppose it isn’t much different than home schooling, all ages together.   Our farm was within walking distance of the school but after it  closed in grade two (it was archaic even then), my parents drove us into town to the Catholic school until the bus service was started a few years later.   One of my earliest recollections is sitting at the dining room table while my mother helped my older siblings with their homework.  I  would sit and soak it all in.  To me learning was fun, a whole new adventure.     

          I always loved books.   My maternal grandmother immigrated from Holland so English was a second language for her.   Her verbal English was good, her reading not so much, and I, a precarious four-year-old, would correct her if she strayed too far from the story-line or the ending wasn’t the way it normally was.    When the teacher assigned a short story to read in the grade five reader, (a Stephen Leacock tale about Mother’s Day),  I took the reader home and read the whole book.   I read the usual children’s books, Black Beauty, Heidi, Pippi Longstocking, The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, a series called the Borrowers which involved tiny people living in a big house, and the rare treat of a Jack and Jill magazine once when I was in the hospital for tonsils, which was full of puzzles and activities.  Around age ten I went through a Trixie Belden girl detective phase, (no Nancy Drew for me, it was the sixties, who would wear a twinset even if they did get to drive a convertible).  Trixie Belden  Living on a farm with few playmates, I read for entertainment.   It was something to do in the summer, and as I was not good at sports and hated the heat, you could usually find me on a blanket in the shade of a tree reading.  As a middle child I was accustomed to being on the periphery, but I could always be found somewhere with my nose in a book.  When the library opened my mother would take myself and my younger brother every Saturday (after his hockey game and penny candy treats), and I would stock up on books for the following week.   The library was one of the few air conditioned buildings in town and I still remember the blast of cool air that hit you when you entered the vestibule, and the musty smell of books.   The librarian would often comment on my choices, because while our little library stocked picture books for kids and adult fiction, the selection for Young Adults, if that genre even existed, was limited…. perhaps only L.M. Montgomery (I read the whole Anne series) and Louisa May Alcott (like many girls Jo was my heroine).   And so I read the classics, Dickens, the Brontes, my mother’s copy of Gone With the Wind, what ever I could get my hands on.    Occasionally, when I would come across a Young Adult book, I would find it fascinating reading about teens my own age.  Several of those books stand out clearly in my mind, although I can’t recall the titles, one in particular about a young girl going to work at a summer resort.  I’m picturing bonfires on the beach right now.   If you lived an isolated life without a driver’s license, those literary ventures into a normal teenage world (parties, boys, jobs), can seem memorable.  Once I was in high school I discovered Seventeen magazine (50 cents an issue), and it became my fashion bible, and then later Mademoiselle and Glamour.  Although I read it for the clothes, magazines used to publish short stories back then and I read my mother’s Good Housekeeping and Redbook magazines for that reason as well as her condensed Reader’s Digest books.   

Seventeen Magazine

Vintage June 1970 Seventeen Magazine – from farmhouse attic

 I was one of the few students who didn’t groan about doing book reports, because it gave you an excuse to read a book.   I would read on the bus ride home, although often I would get all my homework done then too. 

       During my university and early work years, I hardly read at all, only scientific stuff – it was hard to keep up with the sheer volume of information, between work terms and school.  I only picked up reading again as a hobby at around age thirty, and then it was mostly vacation/beach reading. Throughout my working years I read at least a couple of books a month, mostly before bed instead of watching TV, or after I got home if I was working evenings and needed to wind down.  (There are entire decades of TV I have missed, although lately I have developed a taste for anything Masterpiece).   I am still an avid reader but now that I am retired, it’s more like one per week, and reading has crept into the daytime hours.   Reading outside on the swing in the summer is pure bliss.    I used to have a hammock where I read but the trees had to be cut down due to ash-bore disease. 

           My taste in books runs to more mainstream with a few eclectic choices.  I tend to haunt the best seller and new release lists, and recommendations from friends with similar tastes.   I avoid the Danielle Steele romance genre (romance is okay if it’s part of the story, but not the whole point), sci-fi fantasy, most Canadian prize-winners (too weird), and the majority of Oprah’s book club selections.    I don’t like too light and fluffy but I don’t want depressing either.   I enjoy fact as well as fiction, lately my choices have ranged from First They Killed My Father, a Cambodian refugee memoir, Quiet, a fascinating must-read for introverts, to The Sleep Solution (see Counting Sheep blog), and I still love a good medical book such as Five Days at Memorial, a tale of evacuating a hospital post Katrina.  

        I often try to work a book I particularly enjoyed into my blogs if it suits the theme, and sometimes it serves as the inspiration.   Lately I have been reading a lot of mystery thrillers and a few months ago I discovered the bookoutlet website, wandered into the travel section and never left, (see April Paris and Italy blogs). book outlet  I have my favorite authors, Jodi Piccoult, Cathy Kelly, Elin Hildebrand, John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Clare MacIntosh, and often pre-order from the library so I can be number one on the list.    The bookoutlet is a discount website (both US and Canadian sites), for remaindered or overstock books with very cheap prices.  Recently I ordered eleven books for $102, (free shipping over $45), which came Canada Post.  There’s nothing like getting a big box of books in the mail – and isn’t there something wonderful about opening a brand new book and inhaling the scent of newly cut paper.  book outlet

 There have been a few times in my life when I have been too stressed to read – I could not concentrate on the words on the page, but luckily those were few and far between.   Reading can be a distraction, a solace, a balm for over-stressed minds, a portal to another universe, when this one is too hard to bear.   That is why one of the most often requested items in a refuge camp is a book.  It passes the time and takes you away to some other universe, if only for a few quiet hours.    

                A book journal is a lovely way to keep track of your reads, although I am not always diligent about recording the authors and the dates.

Old Book Journal

Old Book Journal

  The editor of the New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul, wrote a book about her book journal (My Life with Bob – my Book of Books – click here for my review).   I used to keep my own BOB/book journal but lately I have been recording my reads on my Good-reads profile.    It you aren’t familiar with it, Good-reads is like a candy store for bookaholics.  To quote L.M. Montgomery, “I am simply a book drunkard,” with no wish to recover.   

           Recently I found a new book journal with a lovely lavender cover on a remainder table, a bargain at $2.99.   A lavender pen would be just the thing for writing in it.   There is something about holding a book in your hand… New Book Journal 

Quotes of the Day:  “I opened up two wonderful gifts this morning – my eyes.”

“Oh for a book, and a cozy nook, Oh for a quiet hour.”                                                                                                

What was your favorite childhood book?  What are you reading now?   What is the best book you read last year?  Please leave a comment if you wish.  


23 thoughts on “On Books and Reading

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      I never got into audio books – I tried listening on my commute to work but found it too distracting while driving, but I know it works for a lot of people. Same with e-readers – great for travel but looking at the screen too much makes my eyes tired….I guess I’m old-fashioned!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. the britchy one says:

    This is exactly how I feel about books!! I loved Enid Blyton, Elinor M Brent Dyer, and read every single book of either that I came across. The Borrowers, The family from one end street, Mrs Pepperpot, Lizzie Dripping, The Moomins, Bottersnike’s and Gumbles, The Ballet Shoes – that whole series! So many books – I would love to have them all again

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Homestead On The Plains says:

      Is Frank Pereti the author or a character of a series. (Just making certain prior to hunting down new books.) If you have not read anything by the following two authors, I highly recommend them. Dean Koontz is similar to Stephen King in terms of writing style. He writes thrillers. Also, Richard Laymon is a horror writer, and an amazing one at that. Sadly he is deceased, but his books are definitely worth a read. (I found Koontz through one of the previews ,in the back of paperbacks, in a Stephen King book and Laymon the same way, but in a Koontz book.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. avwalters says:

    I did Trixie Belden, and Nancy Drew, as a tween. If you read Nancy Drew aloud, you can make it sound quite dirty. My favorite book, as a tiny child, was Millions of Cats. Re-reading it as an adult, I find it to be pretty gruesome, but it was a perfect book for a cat-loving middle child. As a current guilty pleasure, I’m reading Dan Brown’s Origins. I don’t do audiobooks–but a number of readers have asked when my books will be available that way…I guess I’ll have to be more open-minded on that front.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. fatdormouse says:

    I would go to the library on Saturday morning, take out my regulation 6 books, and have finished them by Sunday evening! Our library did have a YA section, which I romped through – I remember loving a book about a young girl coming to terms with being diabetic, and having a diabetic dog – “Sugar Mouse”. And then I graduated into the adult section, loving Mary Stewart’s mystery-romances, and finding “A Portrait of Jenny” – how I loved that book!
    When we went on holiday, mum would allow us to choose one (possibly two) new books which she would buy for us. I’d try to find the thickest possible, as it would have been a dire thing to run out of reading material!
    I use a Kindle a lot now, getting free books from Net Galley, but nothing beats a brand new real book! Do you know Patrick Gale? His books are wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave says:

    Your post should be required reading for the Millennial generation. So many of our young people are missing out on the pure joy and imagination stimulation of stories, favoring less fulfilling pursuits like video games. Reading built a memory thread from my early childhood until now – sort of a “male” version of what you described above (i.e. visits to the library, sports fiction, Hardy Boys, Boys Life). I only recently discovered Jodi Picoult – “The Storyteller” was a wonderful read. And your Jack & Jill memory reminded me of “Highlights”, the children’s magazine seemingly present in every doctor’s waiting room in the 1970’s. I’m thankful we didn’t have cell phones back then.

    I never finish a book without immediately starting another. Reading is a lifelong pleasure for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      Sounds like there’s a blog there somewhere for you! I remember my brothers reading the Hardy Boys and I believe there was a short-lived tv series at one time. Will the millennials have fond memories of their video games and cell phones? PS. All of Jodi Picoult’s books are good, except the one about the man who studies and lives with the wolves, but it might have been a guy book? I especially liked her last one, Small Great Things for it’s timely social commentary. Leaving Time about the elephants and the zookeeper was also very good. She always has a surprise ending. I don’t know how she does it, but you have to have a superior mind to plot like that.


  5. The Homestead On The Plains says:

    I finally had a free moment to read this post and you were 100% correct, I did enjoy it. My favorite books as a child were
    A Medieval Feast by Aliki Brandenberg
    The Magic String by Francene Sabin
    The adventures of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
    When we were young by A.A. Milne
    Where the Sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein

    Currently I am reading: (I have 3 books I am reading currently)
    Warriors: The New Prophecy by Erin Hunter (this is the second book in a series)
    Elsie and Pooka Stories:Summer by Lora Craig-Gaddis
    Tailchaser’s Song by Tad William’s
    (Yes, all 3 books are about cats lol)

    The best book I read last year was not a book, but an entire series by Diana Gabaldon
    It’s the Outlander series.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rhc55 says:

    I’m still catching up reading old blogs after a very busy spell and not being at home (I hardly look at the internet when away) and have started just liking old blogs after reading them, but this blog is wonderful. I have loved books my whole life and spent every Saturday morning when I was young in my local library choosing my four books (maximum allowed) for the week. I can’t remember the first books I read now,but I do remember borrowing every book of fairy stories I could find when I was young, then progressing to every Agatha Christie the library could get hold of. I cannot recall the later books I read as I only borrowed them, but would have read Enid Blytons. I read Gone With the Wind when I was 11 or 12, then progressed to Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, Arnold Bennett – the Clayhanger series I loved, lots of detective books, real-life murder stories, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins – I loved The Moonstone. Am currently reading – slowly – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett, plus Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet – all not easy reads hence reading a bit of each in turn. Shall probably abandon The Book of Disquiet, it really is heavy going. Best book I read last year – for sheer enjoyment and easy to read, the last volume in the Shardlake series by C.J.Sansom – I love history, especially the Tudors, and these books are written about an attorney in Tudor times who goes round solving murders, written by a historian -turned-lawyer, so they have a really authentic feel and are set in a proper historical background against real events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      Thank you. I love to hear what other people read as a child. I am not familiar with the Enid Blyton series but have heard it mentioned a lot. I read Gone with the Wind at age 11 too, my mothers old copy, over the Christmas holidays, as I remember fighting with my 13yr old sister over who got it first, she did and she read it as slowly as possible….I wonder if todays 11yr old could even read that. Your books sound heavy and challenging. I will check out the Tudor series – I like history, but don’t seem to read much historical fiction. I am currently starting Shari Lapena’s latest mystery – An Unwanted Guest. She wrote The Couple Next Door and The Stranger in the House – she is a Canadian author lawyer/English teacher turned writer, and I enjoyed her last two so I suspect this one will be good too. Nothing too indepth for me in the summer…


  7. rhc55 says:

    I probably should read simpler books, it’s just knowing which are worth reading. Perhaps I’ll enrol in my local library so I don;t have to pay for something I may not enjoy… I agree kids today – if they read at all – read very different books. I introduced Chomeuse to Jane Austen when she was 8 and she’s always loved reading. We choose books for each to read, she in fact persuaded me to try Dickens again and I don’t know why I didn’t read him before. I forgot to mention (because I read all his books when I was a teenager and haven’t read once since) that I really loved Thomas Hardy – great description, but very ‘English’. I do read some N. American books as well and love Margaret Attwood – especially Alias Grace. I’ve been following The Hand Maid’s Tale on TV – utterly brilliant – and have bought the book, but not read I yet. I did read many years ago Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and after some getting into it and getting used to her unusual style of writing couldn’t put it down – brilliant. I also loved Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the )Vanities, so I don’t just read English authors. Then again, I read ‘On the Road’ and hated it and disliked John Steinbeck which I had to study at school.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      I just finished An Unwanted Guest – by Shari Lapena – an Agatha Christie murder mystery type book – some of the reviews said she might have borrowed the theme from Agatha Christie, (a group of guests snowed in at an inn), but it was a very suspenseful read. This is her third book, and her best. She is a Canadian lawyer
      turned author.

      Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      I hear everyone rave about the Handmaid’s Tale (book and TVseries) but I haven’t read any new Margaret Atwood although I used to read her older ones – I think the last one I read was Alias Grace. She is considered a famous Canadian author, but I don’t think many Canadians like her!

      Liked by 1 person

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